So – I know its been awhile since I posted – but things have been insane. I’d like to introduce you to my new best friend- A 2012 Giant Liv Avail 1. I purchased the frame off Craigslist. I got with it the frame, forks, headset, spacers, stem, handlebars, carbon seatpost, and seat. She looks similar to the image below – with few exceptions.
About the appearance – I wasn’t sure about the metallic grey paint at first – but it’s actually not jumpy, and while the accents are bright, the bike doesn’t draw undue attention to itself. It’s performance will do that for it, so the appearance doesn’t need to. I’ve grown to like the looks, and she gets many compliments when we go out for a spin. I have some long mileage planned for her in the spring. I’m considering the National Historic Road (Rt. 144) in Maryland in parts starting in the spring.
Instead of the stock build, I changed some things to suit me. I put FSA wing bars on her -the ones with the flat top. I also had installed a brand new bottom bracket and Tiagra road triple crankset in a 172.50 length – which is my preferred length – hard to find lately in certain things. I also find that in this case, I don’t experience toe overlap – which is a huge plus for me. She is also sporting Forte’ shifters in a triple nine configuration. (I personally prefer a triple nine over almost anything else. The ratios really work well for me.) Sora derailleurs handle the shifting duties on the front and rear. She is also wearing a Selle SMP Trk Lady saddle in black. The handlebar tape and housing are the same color as the turquoise that you can see as an accent color on the down tube of the bike and also a little on the top tube. I also have Paceline DLX reflex fenders on board, which fit nicely over the 700X25 Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tires that are on board. I bought this late in the spring, got it built up, and have been riding the daylights out of it ever since.
I have been thrilled by this bike. I was hoping it would fit me well and would allow for a lightweight road bike with fenders for long distance road rides. (As built, I believe she weighs in the neighborhood of 22-23 pounds) The set up is as perfect as I have ever had as a road bike. I love that there are fender mounts on the carbon fork and on the rear, also on the seat tube for “slender fenders” like what I am using. The sloping top tube is perfect for my legs, and the cockpit distance is also perfect. (I like the set up on this bike so much that I changed the configuration of my Madone to match this one.) Additionally, this bike flies. While slightly slower to spin up than my Madone, once it is up to speed, it holds speed really well, and you don’t realize how fast you’re going. The carbon fork does a good job of beating down the vibe, and the higher head tube allows me to get my head up more and see better. The Sram Red brakes with Kool Stop brake pads on board do a great job of stopping the bike on a dime and without throwing me over the handlebars. Handling is stable without being slow, and I find myself cornering at higher speeds than I previously thought I could. Comparing my Madone to this bike, I find the Madone to be much twitchier and it takes me a bit to get used to it again when ride it.
One reviewer* had this to say, “Borrowed from the Defy Advanced SL design is the extra-oversized OverDrive 2 front end. A 1 1/4in to 1 1/2in steerer tube is included to improve handling precision and confidence, especially at higher speeds, while a wider bottom bracket with press-fit bearing cups lends a stiffer and more efficient lower end.” I would have to agree with this statement. The bike is very stable, especially at higher speeds and flies in and out of corners without any concerns about it coming off the line you choose for it. The big bottom bracket transfers power really well, and your energy definitely goes straight into the wheels.
The same reviewer* also had this to say about handling – with which I totally agree – “Handling strikes a good compromise between twitchy and lazy – it’s not so fast that the bike overreacts but is quick and responsive, going exactly where you want and not beyond. Overall, we found that the Avail felt natural and intuitive straight out of the box. In other words, there was no question that we were taking it out for a ride and not the other way around.” I’ve ridden lots of bikes, and this one is one of the best for predictable, responsive, and quick handling without twitchiness. This one also does well with being wound up more gradually – it’s not as stiff and race-oriented as some bikes I’ve ridden, and while not slow, it’s not built for criterium racing. This bike would probably be most at home in a Roubaix style race or a Gran Fondo – something that is more endurance oriented.
Overall – I have to say I really like this ride. I’ve put a number of miles on this bike since I got it out of the shop, and it suits me perfectly. I even sold a few other bikes because I didn’t need them anymore after I bought this one.
UPDATE: So, before Christmas, I found something on the C-list that made a lovely upgrade to this bike.
I had long been toying with the idea of putting a lighting system on this rig. This bike is so comfortable that long days in the saddle are no issue – but running out of daylight is, so I thought about various ways to solve the problem. I decided that I would eventually like to put a dynamo hub on the bike and use it. I knew, however, it wouldn’t be cheap to do, and so put the thought aside until I had the money to do it. Low and behold, someone on c-list had a 700c Velocity rim laced to a sony dynamo hub, with really a really nice 28 spoke count. And, they didn’t want an arm, leg, and first-born child for it. I went and picked it up, and very quickly installed it on the Giant. Now, I’m saving money for the light. Several models are being considered, all of them on Peter White’s site.
*Lorna Bradley, Bike Radar